Starship Serial Number 10 (SN10) is SpaceX’s latest iteration of the rocket that could one day send humans to Mars. SpaceX fans are waiting for news of a launch date, with the world’s attention focused on SpaceX’s facilities at Boca Chica, South Texas. SpaceX has so far only launched two Starship prototypes on high-altitude test flights – the SN8 and SN9 – both of which ended in disaster.
The FAA said: “The FAA closed the investigation of the February 2 SpaceX Starship SN9 prototype mishap today, clearing the way for the SN10 test flight pending FAA approval of license updates.
“The FAA provided oversight of the SN9 mishap investigation conducted by SpaceX.
“The SN9 vehicle failed within the bounds of the FAA safety analysis.”
Most importantly, the FAA found the explosion did not pose any threat to public life or property.
All debris from the blast was contained within the designated area, which surrounds the facility at Boca Chica.
The SpaceX launch sits about 20 miles east of Brownsville, Cameron County, on the US Gulf Coast.
SpaceX has purchased large swathes of land in the area with a few houses still standing in the nearby Boca Chica Village.
On the day of Starship’s launches, the village is evacuated and roads leading in and out of Boca Chica are cordoned off.
However, before the SN10 can launch, there is one more hurdle to clear: a static fire test of the rocket’s Raptor engines.
During the static fire, Starship will briefly ignite its engines at full throttle but will remain tethered to the ground.
Road closures issued by Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino Jr suggest the test will take place today, Wednesday or Thursday.
The closures are in effect on these days from 3pm to midnight GMT (9am to 6pm local time).
The FAA has also issued new flight restrictions around Boca Chica and Brownsville on the same days.
The restrictions are in place between 2pm and 12.30am GMT (8am and 6.30pm local time) on all three days.
The Starship prototype is expected to launch to an altitude of at least 6.2 miles (10km) after which it will fall to the ground belly-side down.
A completed Starship will perform the same belly-flop manoeuvre on Mars, using its aerodynamic profile to bleed speed without using its engines.
Then, just before hitting the ground, the rocket will flip upright and fire its Raptors to gently touch down – a move SN8 and SN9 have both failed.
But the spacecraft will not launch on its own as it will blast off from Earth on top of a Super Heavy booster.
Together, SpaceX believes the Starship system will have the power and capacity to fly 100 astronauts at once.